Louisville CardFile: Western Kentucky

Among those who considered what the Louisville Cardinal offense might be like in the post-Lamar era, there was a significant contingent — myself included — who were sure there would be more balance, less reliance on one player more Petrino 1.0.

Attendant with that line of thinking was a belief that Bobby Petrino would be more comfortable with a traditional QB — heir apparent Puma Pass — whose inclination is to stay in the pocket and leave the rushing for the most part to the running backs.

While U of L was pummeled by Alabama in the opener, Pass, who but for fortune might have been the Roll Tide QB replaced by phenom Tua Tagovailoa, looked like the future for the Cards. He was eerily calm in the pocket despite unrelenting pressure from the Tide, completing 50% of his throws, and generally comporting himself admirably in his first start on national TV against what’s proving might be the scariest pigskin juggernaut in memory.

Fast forward. Here are the signal caller’s numbers of note from the Cardinals’ escape against the Hilltoppers. Ten completions in 18 attempts for 88 yards. A team leading 21 rushing attempts for 129 net yards.

Not Puma Pass. And not exactly LJ, but certainly reminiscent. Contrary to what we pundits might have believed, contrary to what Bobby Petrino was planning, things look just the same as they ever was on O.

Malik Cunningham, come on down and play.

Situations such as this are commonly categorized as a “quarterback controversy.”

I’m not sure that’s accurate here. Cunningham has clearly been more effective in his two relief stints. For whatever reasons, mysterious as they may be, Pass hasn’t gotten anything done since the opener. Before being justifiably pulled early on against the Toppers, he was 0/3 with a pick.

Until last Saturday, Cunningham was frankly an afterthought. Here’s what the media guide says in toto about the former #1 prep QB in Alabama, “Redshirt freshman Malik Cunningham is a talented, dual-threat athlete, who enters the fall as the back-up quarterback.”

It’s a blurb as mundane as the instructions that come with a new knife sharpener.

Despite his jittery feet, and his propensity to tuck and run, he’s been the catalyst for Louisville’s offense — such as it has been — for two weeks in a row.

It’s hard to conceive he won’t take the field for the first snap in Charlottesville.

 * * * * *

There are more than a few matters amiss for the Cardinals.

With just under three minutes to play in the opening half, the University of Louisville had ZERO yards passing. Two completions to that point were for losses. The Cards were down 0-14.

Signs of life then appeared. Malik hit Jaylen Smith for a gain of 31, Dez Fitzpatrick for 17, Devonte Peete for 9 and then 8. Then the drive stalled after a false start, and a WKU pick in the endzone that was overturned on review, because the DB landed out of bounds. The Cards couldn’t punch it in and settled for a FG to get off the schneid.

On the first play of the Louisville series after falling behind 13-17, Louisville’s most heralded receiver Jaylen Smith was five yards clear of the man covering him and allowed a perfectly thrown pass to slide untouched through his paws. The Cards did tally the go ahead/ winning TD eventually on the drive.

But Smith’s drop seems a metaphor for the reality that all is not as it should be with the Cardinals. And it was not the only gaffe by Louisville receivers. There were by unofficial count at least five dropped balls that should have been easy catches.

U of L was three and out on a potential game sealing drive beginning with 2:01 to play. The visitors got better field position than they should have after an undisciplined impeding the returner penalty. Western ran a classic hook and ladder for a 36 yard gain, allowing a game tying FG attempt.

U of L suffered three disturbing long drives by WKU. Sixteen plays for 80 yards, using up 7:13 of the clock for the Bowling Greeners opening TD. Fourteen plays for 60 yards in 6:32 in the 3d, which ended when Jared Goldwire blocked a FG attempt. Fourteen plays for 68 yards in 6:09, ending in a successful three. During these sustained onslaughts, the Toppers OL manhandled the U of L front.

For context, Western Kentucky’s offense was being directed by the team’s third option at QB, Davis Shanley.

 * * * * *

Down 0-7 early in the 2d, with the Cards showing little fire, Bobby Petrino gambled, going for it on a 4th and 3 at the Cards’ own 31. Cunningham was stuffed on a keeper.

Two plays later, the Hilltoppers scored, increasing their advantage to 14.

I can’t argue with the call. Petrino was looking to energize his team which, for the second week in a row, was playing listlessly.

That U of L came back to escape with a win is to its credit.

But the Cardinals’ indifferent performances the last two weeks against “lesser” foes they should have overwhelmed indicate there might be trouble in River City, and it ain’t pool.

— Seedy K




4 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Western Kentucky

  1. I hardly know where to start How about this: I was ready to leave this mess at the end of the 2nd quarter. This football team is a debacle from the coaches to the players. They just aren’t very good. No. They’re awful. I can’t remember how many times I just stood there with my mouth open in disbelief. Fourth and three on your own thirty, with no signs of offensive productivity to that point, and you go for it? The one well thrown ball to come out of Malik Cunningham’s hand to a wide open Jaylen Smith and the ball goes. through. his. hands? Let’s be clear. There is no quarterback controversy because there is no quarterback. Of sure, it’s fun to watch Malik scamper around but that’s not by design. He either can’t find or can’t ( I believe) anticipate open opportunities. He is appallingly inaccurate when he does throw and when he is on target, the guys can’t catch. So he runs for his life. But when he gets into the ACC, better teams will contain his scrambling because they’ll know he’s not going to pass. Once he looks for his primary and secondary receivers and finds no one open..yet..he is done looking. I have no doubt that he will start in Charlottesville as you opine. I see no choice. Puma Pass is apparently a bust which is puzzling. Confusion and a lack of discipline continue to flourish on the field. But what really pisses me off is I look at all these new seats and new scoreboards (which were wrong on many occasions. The sound system produces echoes so bad I had trouble hearing announcer and referee) and all these things done to “enhance the fan experience” and then I look at what we are supposed to watch on the field. Can’t we get some players? Is Petrino so hard to get along with that good coaches come and go or now won’t come at all because he’s so hard to get along with? Big answers are coming next week at UVA.

    1. Bobby Petrino has lost his mojo. Even though the only really good team left on the schedule is Clemson, I believe this season is going to be a disaster.

  2. My fellow chicken littles….

    ….yes, it is bad…is it incurable? Maybe…The only redeeming feature that I see is that we are really young in so many areas and we have lost our (2) undoubtedly best defenders Perhaps the light will come on; perhaps it won’t. But what we are seeing right now is not pretty.

    College foots is fickle, to say the least. 4-5 years ago, Wake and BC had offensive offenses. Friday evening, they played an extremely entertaining, high scoring game at a very high skill level. How have these teams come so far and others (Not just mentioning Fl.St , Fla., Neb, UCLA, Texas or even UofL) fallen so far? Maybe it is coaching, although I doubt that either Wake or B.C.’s coaches are Hall of Famers.

    My guess is that the bottom level teams are on an up-cycle while the teams mentioned above are down. Thus, the “have-nots” have a great chance of having super years in 2018. Will it last? Probably not–but the schools that at least have let the coach have more than a 3 year window to figure it out seem to be doing just fine. Remember, even in the NFL, ALL the rookie coaches lost in their first game this season. Teams that are replacing a lot of outstanding talent will suffer–unless your team is named Alabama where the rules just don’t seem to apply because of the depth of talent and emphasis put on the sport year round.

    Even the absurdly bad UbaK Wildcats are on an up-cycle, it appears. Whether it will last for more than this year or even through this year or this weekend is unknown and not probable. But it seems like a lot of dogs are having their day in the sun this year for some reason– IU (3-0) UK (3-0) BC (3-0) SYR (3-0) Duke (3-0)….yet, the season is only 1/4 through…

    So, let’s permit the season to play out. CBP for sure knows a lot more about football and his team than I do. The next 3 games can mean we are 5-1 and have righted the ship with a chance to play a top 10 BC on the road, or we could be 2-4 and looking to turn out the lights on the season.

    Let’s hope it is the former and not the latter….

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